BURLINGTON — A Vermont couple who disappeared last year were the victims of an Alaska man who set out across the country intent on kidnapping and murdering someone and picked them because the layout of their house lent itself to an invasion, authorities said Monday.
Israel Keyes cut a phone line to test for the presence of an alarm system and wore a headlamp during what he called a “blitz” attack on the Essex home of Bill and Lorraine Currier in the dead of night, officials said at a news conference in Burlington.
Keyes died over the weekend in an Alaska jail, apparently in a suicide, as he awaited trial in another death in that state. Authorities say he confessed both crimes to investigators and may be responsible for five other killings around the country.
Keyes tied up the Curriers, drove them to an abandoned house, and shot one and strangled the other, authorities said. Both tried in vain to escape.
“By all accounts, they were friendly, peaceful, good people who encountered a force of pure evil acting at random,” U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin said.
Keyes flew from Alaska to Chicago on June 2, 2011, rented a car and drove almost 1,000 miles to Vermont, carrying a gun and silencer, authorities said. He spent three days in Vermont, even buying a short-term fishing license, officials said.
Keyes told investigators he chose the Curriers’ home because it had an attached garage, no evidence of children or a dog, and the style of the house clued him in to the probable location of the master bedroom.
In preparing to break in, he cut the phone line to see whether it would trigger an alarm. He removed a fan from a window to get into the garage on June 8 and smashed a window into the house with a crowbar that had been hanging on the wall of the garage.
“Keyes then engaged in what he called a ‘blitz’ attack on the Curriers, and ran to the room he had earlier predicted was the bedroom. Keyes estimated it took him approximately five to six seconds to get from the broken entry door to the Curriers’ bedroom,” Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said. “During this time, Keyes wore a headlamp to provide lighting in the otherwise dark home.”
After binding the two with zip ties, Keyes drove the Curriers, both in their 50s, to an abandoned house in Essex that he had already scouted. He tied Bill to a stool in the basement. Lorraine Currier had been left in the car and managed to escape. Keyes tackled the fleeing woman and brought her back to the house, Donovan said.
He shot Bill Currier in the basement with the silenced gun. He then sexually assaulted and strangled Lorraine Currier, Donovan said, his voice breaking.
“It’s clear from the facts of this case that, though confronted with death, Bill and Lorraine Currier showed extraordinary bravery and courage and an extreme dedication and love to each other,” Donovan said. “And they fought to the end.”
Keyes placed the bodies in garbage bags that he covered with debris in the basement of the abandoned home, which was later demolished. After Keyes began speaking to investigators in April, FBI teams spent months searching the landfill in northern Vermont where the debris was taken. The remains were never found.
After the killings, Keyes left the Curriers’ car in a parking lot and drove his rental car to Maine. He then returned to Vermont and noticed the crime scene tape around the Currier home.
Keyes told police he left Vermont and continued to follow the Currier case through the Vermont press. After his arrest in Alaska, he told authorizes he would stop cooperating if he was publicly linked to the Curriers.
He threw the gun he had brought from Alaska and the weapon he stole from the Curriers into a reservoir near Parishville, N.Y., where both were recovered by FBI dive teams.
Essex Police Lt. George Murtie, who interviewed Keyes about the Curriers’ killing, described his demeanor as “very calm” with “no display of emotion.”
When Keyes died, he was being held for the slaying of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who was abducted from a coffee kiosk in Anchorage in February. He was later arrested in Texas after using her debit card.
Authorities have said money appeared to be just a partial motive in Keyes’ crimes. Lorraine Currier’s purse was missing from her home.
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